Sprouted Seed Teas (SSTs) are becoming popular as a home-made biofertilizer, especially among cannabis and hemp cultivators. There is a lot of information and videos now circulating on the internet about how to make these teas, but how is one to know which recipe is best, or even correct? In this guide, our experienced growers will walk you through the benefits of SSTs and provide a recipe that has worked wonders for them.
The Importance of Cytokinins
There are two types of Cytokinins, but the one found in plants is known as adenine-type cytokinins. Adenine is one of the four constituent bases of nucleic acid, biopolymers which are essential to all forms of life. These cytokinins are synthesized at the roots, and are known to promote plant cell division. Adenine is a ring-shaped organic compound found in familiar plant sources, the highest purine content found in string beans, followed by cauliflower and soybeans. This natural compound is also known as Vitamin B4.
Although this is a natural compound, it is not made inside the plant itself. In fact, microbes that colonize the plant’s roots are the ones that produce cytokinins and make them available to the plant. This is just another way that microbes and plants work together in symbiosis, and why cultivating living soil will lead to larger, healthier plants.
The most commonly known form of naturally occurring adenine-type cytokinin is called zeatin, which has been isolated from corn. Valuable enzymes are present in the dormant seed, and they are activated only when the seed comes in contact with water. As the temperature begins to increase, the rate of metabolism and enzyme activity also increases. One way to measure this metabolism is by the amount of carbon dioxide given off and oxygen taken up.
Cytokinins will increase the thickness and overall strength of the side branches, and more substantial branches will produce more significant and more robust cannabis/hemp flowers. Cytokinins are also known as the "Fountain of Youth Hormone." The benefits of cytokinins can be summed up in the following way:
Cytokinins Presence = More Mitosis
More Mitosis = More Cells
More Cells = More Plant Growth
A Natural and Inexpensive Source of Cytokinins
Organic blue corn seeds produce a wide range of cytokinins on par with coconut water. The growing international market demand for coconut water is pushing the price higher and higher, so this is no longer an affordable source of cytokinins for growing plants. This is why our team at Everflux Technologies continues to research and test newer ways to produce natural plant growth hormones for cultivating cannabis and hemp. By using sprouted corn teas, farmers will get the benefits from the Cytokinins without the expense of having to purchase coconut water. You do not even need to order organic corn seeds online, just head over to an organic grocery store and buy organic popcorn.
One thing about using blue corn seeds specifically is that we found it easier to emulsify the seeds once the tap roots grow out to one inch or so, which also allowed time to soften the original blue corn seed. Here is a tried and true SST recipe that the living soil community has embraced as one of the best:
Since blue corn makes a pretty strong tea, we use about half of the amount of seed as compared to other seed teas. Once your seed tea is finished, you can directly apply it to your soil with no further dilution. You should only apply it twice a month, just a few ounces at a time, sprinkled over your soil. A little goes a long way with this stuff.
Next time we will discuss how to make an auxin-rich sprouted seed tea from alfalfa. Used together, these various sprouted seed teas can give the plant all the natural growth hormones and enzymatic activity it will need to produce big, terpene rich buds. Used in conjunction with a good living soil, the results will blow you away.
As farmers, we know that natural disasters are a part of the business. From floods and droughts to freak storms, to insect invasions, there are some things in farming that are out of our control. Or are they? While a farmer can never wholly prevent or avoid crop loss due to these natural disasters, there are some steps you can take to reduce the impact and ultimately save some of your crops.
In this article we will focus on how increasing your soil organic matter and active microbial populations can reduce your crop loss from almost any natural disaster.
Wind and hail storms
-Sturdier stems can withstand storms
-How do microbes translate to sturdier stems?
So you want to learn how you can use soil microbes to defend your hemp farm from the awesome power of Mother Nature? The microbial world is the "secret sauce" in the living soil, hemp farmers recipe book. One of the most crucial nutrients in this symbiotic relationship is silicon. Hemp plants can only absorb silicon in the form of mono-silicic acids; these occur naturally as the mineral silicon breaks down and becomes dissolved into water. Once absorbed, the hemp plant transports the silicon to where the plant's transpiration system requires it. Silicon, with the assistance of microbes, increases the strength and integrity of the hemp plant, making stems and branches thicker and more durable, as well as growing fan leaves greener and the overall plant health becomes more robust. A healthier plant structure gives the plant the ability to withstand harsh elements from Mother Nature.
How to improve your hemp plants cell development
As soon as your hemp plant uptakes silicon, the nutrient becomes permanently placed into the cell walls within 24 hours. These deposits form a silica-cellulose (gel-like) framework that builds a more durable and quicker defined cell wall. This cell wall could not achieve these extra growing attributes without the inclusion of silicon, demonstrating its importance. Overall the hemp plant can grow more energetic and healthy when it uptakes silicon utilizing this symbiotic relationship.
A simple metaphor for this increased strength during the hemp plants' life cycle would be like the hemp plants' cell walls are the brick walls of the foundation in a house. Silicon helps the hemp plant, acting as the cement between the bricks in the cell walls and between the actual cells themselves. When the roots absorb silicon, it is used as a cement mix to help build that brick wall as well. The cell walls are then made quicker and more robust from this exchange. Once the hemp plant moves the 'cement' in its place, it cannot be transported anywhere else within the plant. To grow quality hemp, it becomes essential to feed silicon throughout the entire growing season. Also, it helps to make sure that all new growth in the hemp plant benefits from these newly added nutrients.
Soil microbes & silicon- The perfect combination to balance the uptake of nutrients
The mere presence of Silicon in a farmer's nutrient solution can positively affect the uptake and absorption of several macro and micro-nutrients. Silicon has shown to increase zinc uptake, an essential element in growth and photosynthesis.
Using diverse soil microbes and silicon increases, the availability of nitrogen to the plant as its addition to the soil will reduce the loss of nitrogen to ammonia (a naturally occurring process in soil). Nitrogen is vital in the vegetative stage of hemp development as it promotes healthy new fan leaf foliage. Silicon also aids in the balance and uptake of phosphorus, reducing the risk of toxic levels being taken in by the plant.
Building & maintaining hemp plant strength and cell integrity
Building cell integrity is one of the more apparent effects of adding silicon. Your plants will be visibly healthier, with wider, thicker stems and branches. The more full the stem, the more uptake and transpiration of water and nutritional elements are possible. So, in theory, the plants will grow more significant and at a faster pace.
Using a diverse group of soil microbes increases silicon availability to your hemp fields, there will be a corresponding increase in the silica made within the cell walls. Silicon will compete against the metals available in the nutrient solution, preventing toxic build-ups.
Floods and droughts
-seems strange to put these together, but they are related
-increasing soil water holding capacity helps with floods and droughts
-biochar is an excellent way to do this quickly
The use of biochar in depleted and drought-ridden soil has become the topic of several research studies as of late. Despite increased research around biochar, nearly all soil scientists recognize that more research is needed to fully comprehend how biochar works in soils to achieve various goals. Biochar not only improves water retention but also works with a plant's root system to use water (and nutrients) more efficiently.
Many organic farmers, not surprisingly, attribute the increased water retention to biochar's porous surface structure. These hemp farmers believe biochar to increase soil water holding capacity and ability to help balance fluctuations in water availability in climates with increased periods of drought.
Biochar can also impact the microbial populations in soil and may even cause the promotion of beneficial microorganisms that foster growth and resistance to stresses. Tropical soils found biochar to significantly increase the ability of both fungal and bacterial populations in the ground to resist drought.
The porous structure also begins to create the perfect habitat for newly awakened soil microbes and beneficial fungi to flourish. Although the microorganisms will eventually grow on the biochar, you will see an even more significant benefit if you "inoculate" and "activate" your biochar. This optional step is done before incorporating the biochar into your garden and has the added benefit of preventing excessive nutrient binding.
It's not the charred pieces of biochar wood that adds the vital benefits to the soil, it's the unique combination of the bacteria they attract and feed along with quality compost and organic fertilizers. Once the surfaces of biochar have properly 'aged,' they become home to beneficial microbes in the soil. Essentially, this is because the burnt pieces of biochar begin to grow the ideal living spaces within their nooks and crannies for this bacteria to become alive and thriving.
Biochar is a highly porous structure, and this helps biochar absorb nutrients and water within its many micro-surfaces. Soil treated with biochar becomes more resilient and has a better tolerance to droughts as well as root and leaf diseases. Biochar can also help to improve and clean the water quality of the soil. We accomplish this by creating a binding agent for nutrients to fuse, preventing them from getting washed away in groundwater during heavy rains.
Everflux Technologies offers a biochar called Terraflux that is innoculated with Bioflux. You can find it here:
-Insects don't touch plants with Brix over a certain level
-explain relationships between Brix, microbes, and soil
Hemp farmers are actually in the business of maximizing the absorption of light energy from the sun, for the creation of chemical energy and sugars in the plant. With these sugars, we want to optimize our food and fiber production, because this is our profitability.
So, the sugar levels in the hemp plant are a system of measurement for photosynthetic activity. In simple terms, the health of the hemp plant begins with achieving improved sugar levels; the higher the sugar levels, the healthier the plant. We determine that the plant's sugar levels are best measured as Brix levels.
What are Brix levels?
Brix levels predominantly measure the sugar content of the sap found inside the hemp plant. Brix is a measurement of dissolved minerals and sugars in water; however, for an accurate reading, we need to factor that many other chemicals may be present and contribute an inaccurate reading.
Brix levels are measured on a scale that calibrates the amount of light that bends when passing through the liquid. These levels in organic crops and pastures will generally vary from around 4 to 20. The amount of light refraction depends on sample liquid density.
Protection and resistance from frost
Healthier hemp plants that have higher Brix levels are less prone to frost. We achieve this because high-Brix plant sap has a lower freezing point than a lower grade hemp sap.
Organic hemp farmers measure Brix levels with a refractometer. Crops with higher Brix levels will also notice a lower freezing point, with associated protection against frost damage. A high Brix reading means more elevated sugar and mineral content and higher accurate protein content.
Resistance from major insect & disease attack
Hemp plants with higher Brix readings are more resilient to disease and insect attack. Did you know most detrimental insects detect various wavelengths in the infrared spectrum? They relate these different frequencies to water, food, and potential sexual partners.
Hemp plants that have the right mineral balance emit a different rate to those that have deficiencies. Once we as hemp farmers improve the quality of our hemp fields and it surpasses normal levels, there will not be an insect problem with our farms because the hemp field will not vibrate at a frequency that resonates with the vibrations the insects know as a food source.
We have advised Hemp farmers that they should focus on 12 or better Brix readings to achieve reasonable plant pest immunity. You will find IPM pest problems persist until you achieve higher fan leaf and main hemp stalk readings; the targeted goal will always be 12+.
Did you know, John Kempf, a crop nutrition consultant with Advancing Eco-Agriculture in the United States, has noticed and reported on four stages of crop health improvement over time, upon moving from a chemically intensive system to a biological-based farming system?
Living Soil organic methods are the future for highly desired hemp biomasses. How are you cultivating?
Living soil is the symbiotic relationship between organisms working together to break down organic matter in your soil, which, in turn, provides valuable nutrients to plants and the microbial world. This style of cultivating allows the newly formed soil to function as its own ecological community, feeding the cannabis/hemp plant roots itself.
This is known as growing with mother nature and was first called the "soil food web" by Dr. Elaine Ingham. The soil foodweb world consists of composting worms, beneficial nematodes, protozoa, bacteria, and fungi.
Living soil cultivation methods have proven time and time again to produce extremely high-quality cannabis. They generate these results by breaking down the organic matter that collects on the soil floor. Then specific decomposers like red wiggler composting worms, roly polys, and white springtail mites break that organic matter down into carbon. The ground that doesn't contain beneficial organisms is not living and should be considered DIRT. Dirt requires nutritional supplementation via fertilizers and compost teas just to produce mediocre medicine.
Red Wigglers and African Nightcrawlers will work in a symbiotic relationship with the microbial soil foodweb to help build dissolved oxygen channels, which allows newly formed roots to begin to grow a larger circumference. This symbiotic relationship also helps to control dangerous pests and improve water retention, thus reducing the amount of attention needed to produce abundant, high quality cannabis and hemp yields.
Why Is This Style Called "Beyond Organic"?
USDA Certified Organic has come to mean any farmer that uses organically certified input materials. Many would argue that this is a very watered-down version of the original meaning.
Even focusing on “soil health” is not necessarily enough, because some farmers and growers get caught up on the chemistry of their soil, thinking that they need to add various mineral and chemical nutrients in order to balance their soil. However, the focus of a truly organic farmer - or what we are now calling “beyond organic” or “regenerative,” is on biological soil health. When a farmer promotes the right microbes and the accumulation of organic matter in their soil, everything else will follow.
Tilling creates a Catch 22 for the organic farm: tilling speeds the breakdown process of organic matter but also dramatically minimizes the lifespan of the organisms living in the newly tilled soil. Essentially, excessive tilling kills off the microorganisms in the ground rather than nurturing them.
As a living soil farmer, learn to trust the process and let Mother Nature work synergistically with the microbial world by pulling down the organic matter. This organic matter becomes the living soil we are after and naturally boosts the amount of active organic matter that is bioavailable. This entire microbial world operates on this life source for creating energy and receiving nutrition, improving its organic content. This is fantastic for achieving the full cannabis genetic profiles we are after. A beyond organic farm will use little or no tilling.
In a Living Soil, a complex and high glomalin soil will begin to form. This kind of soil is drought resistant and has impressive water retention capabilities.
Increasing micro-diversity has many beneficial and long lasting effects that you can see all the way up the food chain, such as producing high-end cannabis/hemp flavor profiles that you enjoy smoking for their medicinal values. There is a direct correlation between biodiversity in your soil and the complexities of taste and oil production in whatever you are growing.
The Benefits of Growing Cannabis in Living Soil
When cannabis is cultivated in a no-till/living soil system, it begins to emulate the more delicate complexities like that of aged fine wine. A healthy microbiological ecosystem MUST be alive and thriving for you to achieve these same results building your living soil system. The full genetic profile of the plant relies directly upon the quality and level of microbiology in your soil system. The higher bio-diversity increases over time and creates a healthy closed-loop system where more top quality microbial levels are achieved.
If you are looking to start cultivating your own THC/CBD medicine, then there is no better cultivation style. Since the medicinal values of the plant are determined by the oil production, you will end up with a much more complex therapeutic profile, allowing for the actual medical potential of the plant to be achieved. Your end product will be looked upon as high end and will have a far superior cannabinoid profile.
THC has become the most commonly known psychoactive compound in the cannabinoid family. When the levels of these other cannabinoids are raised, there seems to be a direct correlation to the medicinal value pulled from the compounds and their medical applications.
When grown in a diverse microbiological environment, cannabis becomes a much more potent and diverse medicine. Any increase in the levels and varieties of cannabinoids should be the goal when growing medical cannabis. Below are the most commonly known cannabinoids besides THC, and their effects:
If you’ve been considering making the switch to cultivating with true living soil, there’s no better time to do so. With the rapidly changing landscape of the cannabis industry, and new competition entering the growing game every day, there’s no better way to stand out.
There’s one fact that all farmers know to be true: using N-P-K fertilizers will increase your crop yield. But today, the scientific foundation for this supposed fact is eroding faster than dirt in a downpour. And what farmers are realizing is that the benefits of using fertilizers are starting to be dwarfed by the side effects. For one, fertilizers lead to empty growth. If you’re trying to grow high quality flower for CBD, this means less terpenes and cannabinoids per pound. For another, feeding a plant N-P-K fertilizers leads to a decline in the soil microbial population which is ESSENTIAL for protecting the plant from pests and diseases.
Many people believe that hemp is naturally resistant to pests. Yet we’ve already seen hemp farmers fall victim to the same problems’ other farmers face. Fungal diseases like Fusarium and Pythium are ravaging entire crops. Grasshoppers find hemp leaves especially tasty. Spider mites and root aphids have a particular affection for the hemp plant. While fertilizers might appear to increase your yield, they will ultimately leave your plants vulnerable to a disease or pests that could decrease your yield dramatically.
The use of chemicals- such as synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides- is a relatively recent agricultural development. For thousands of years, chemicals were not needed or used in farming. Despite what we’ve been told about the necessity of the “green revolution,” countries like China, Japan and Korea managed to sustain very dense populations for hundreds of years using only techniques that feed the soil and promoted healthy microbial life. Sensibly, chemical inputs are not required when you are working with, not against, the systems that Mother Nature already has in place.
The Fundamental Principles of Farming Are Changing
The past two decades have seen rapid advances in our understanding of soil science. We now know that a healthy soil microbial ecosystem is the most important factor in getting a high yield, healthy crop. Healthy, regenerative soil should become alive and thriving with an abundant and diverse group of microbial life. Biodiversity is critical, with an average of 90% of soil functions created by different microbes. This is because microbes are what make nutrients bioavailable to plants. Most soils have plenty of nutrients in them, they are just bound to other elements in a form that makes them not available to the plants. Microbes can unlock these compounds and ionize the nutrients, allowing plants to take them up through their roots. Soil microbes also perform two other key functions: preventing runoff and minimizing soil erosion. Bacteria bind the soil together, allowing the land to take in more water and oxygen, and that results in less runoff. With solubilizing minerals in the ground, this will slowly feed the plants, helping them grow the way nature intended.
Bare soil is damaged soil, worthless soil, and should be defined by its proper lifeless name, dirt. Dirt only occurs where farmers’ pesticides or other chemicals have interfered with the natural ecological balance. Once the land has been bare, it becomes susceptible to further damage from harsh elements: sun, wind, and water. Thus, the use of the conventional plow in cultivation not only damages soil life processes which are crucial for plant nutrient uptake, but may ultimately cause more extensive yearly hemp crop loss. The three main approaches to preserving soil life in intensive hemp cultivation are as follows:
• Planting divers cover crops and rotate crops
• Reducing tillage and implement alternative weed control strategies
• Add organic matter and microbial supplements to jumpstart soil life
We will discuss these three techniques in detail below. Some of these measures are easier to implement than others. It also may be difficult to implement them all in one season, but by introducing one of these methods in three consecutive seasons, farmers can move toward producing a healthier crop, healthier profits, and a superior product.
1. PLANT DIVERSE COVER CROPS AND ROTATE CROPS
Next level hemp farming begins with comprehending that mother nature never lets soil to become bare. Newly developed soil microbes depend on plants, and soil health depends on the bio-diversity of the living soil microbes. How we manage plants is critical to not only restoring but also rebuilding the microbial health of the soil. Cultivating a diverse mix of healthy cover crops and other plants does many useful things for you, including:
• Cover crops rebuild microbial populations and allow composting worms and white springtail mites to break down organic matter in the soil, producing more carbon and nitrogen for the Soil Food Web.
• Protects and covers the earth, regulating and maintaining its temperature during extreme hot or cold environments
• Allows another level of security for your hemp plants to defend and fight off bug infestations
We have found that the more attention to detail and diversity in the cover crop seed selection, the easier it is in the summer months for the hemp farmer. Diverse seed selection helps create the level of health the farmer needs to achieve by beginning to build a thriving microbial ecosystem. Here are the twelve best cover crops to use in conjunction with the hemp plant:
1. Flax - Carter
2. Clover - Yellow Sweet
3. Clover - White Dutch
4. Clover - Medium Red
5. Clover - Crimson
6. Lentils - Indianhead
7. Millet - White Proso
8. Vetch - Hairy
9. Vetch - Common
10. Cowpeas - Red Ripper
11. Buckwheat - Mancan
12. Pea - Forage
Cultivating a diverse variety of plants to the soil, the microbial population in the ground becomes stronger and better able to fight off invasive diseases and pests. Diversity also gives the plants access to more nutrients that were bound up in the soil and previously not bio-available.
2. REDUCE TILLAGE AND IMPLEMENT ALTERNATIVE WEED CONTROL
Our ancestors brought a wide variety of knowledge from Europe, and one of the most detrimental "pearls of wisdom" they brought with them was the art form of tilling the land. Their thought process was that by tilling, they could "fluff and soften" up the soil, mix in oxygen, and increase water infiltration. It turns out that they were sadly misinformed.
Tilling is exceptionally destructive to our land and atmosphere. Tilling the land:
• Destroys the rhizosphere, which is crucial for peak soil function
• Destroys mycelial networks which bring nutrients to the plant
• Reduces soil organic matter and releases excess carbon into the atmosphere as CO2
• Increases the presence of weeds (contrary to conventional wisdom)
• Decreases water infiltration
While tiling is often seen as crucial for controlling weeds, there are many other, less destructive ways to do so. And in fact, tilling only causes weeds to grow back with a vengeance.
Properly timing the planting and harvesting of a cover crop can do a lot to slow down weed growth. If the field is covered with a dense and diverse cover crop, this crop will typically out-compete common weeds. During the main planting season, companion crops can be planted with hemp, which can also reduce weed pressure and protect the hemp plant from pests. Mulch is also an effective weed control strategy. Woody mulches will also break down during the season and supply extra organic matter and nutrients to the soil. Biodegradable plastic mulches are also an effective way to control weeds. Finally, if you introduce the right kind of grazing animal into your field during the growing season – one that will eat the weeds instead of the hemp plants – this can not only control weeds, but provide organic fertilizer to your field in the form of manure.
3. ADD ORGANIC MATTER AND MICROBIAL SUPPLEMENTS TO YOUR SOIL
Soil organic matter is the key to fostering healthy and diverse microbial life. There are many amendments that can add organic material and a boost of microbes to your soil. Some will work quickly, while others will build up the soil organic matter over a few seasons.
Aerobic compost is the most common soil amendment used to add organic matter and beneficial microbes. This compost can be made on your farm with your own organic waste materials, but the process can be labor intensive. Purchasing compost from a reliable, tested source can be a good alternative. A lesser-known and less widely available form of compost is Bokashi. This originates from a Japanese technique of essentially fermenting organic waste material, without the labor-intensive process of turning and aerating.
Biochar is an amendment that’s very high in carbon and in surface area, making is super-absorptive. This can be extremely beneficial for holding water, nutrients and microbes for plants. However one must ensure that biochar has been inoculated with microbes before being applied to the soil, otherwise the raw char might temporarily suck up nutrients and microbes, depriving the plant. Balancing the pH of biochar ahead of application is also important, as biochar is naturally very alkaline.
Worm castings are one of the most effective organic soil amendments, because they contain some of the highest density and diversity of microbial life, as well as bioavailable nutrients, since this is essentially worm manure. Producing worm castings at scale is challenging, but they can often be bought and made into a tea, which can be applied to crops through the irrigation system.
Actively aerated compost tea (ACCT) is a water-based oxygen-rich tea containing large populations of beneficial aerobic bacteria, nematodes, fungi, and protozoa; these microbes work in a symbiotic relationship with plants. Quality compost tea breeds thousands of beneficial microorganisms as well as a stable balance of bacterial and fungal ratios. Compost tea allows you to breed a small amount of compost into a dispersible liquid form, letting a little fertilizer to go a lot farther. All it requires is an inoculant of beneficial bacteria and fungi, some key food sources, chemical-free water, oxygen, and slight agitation.
Finally, fermented plant juice, produced from anaerobically fermenting organic material, produces a liquid microbial similar to compost tea, but with a few additional advantages: 1) it doesn’t have to be aerated, and therefore has a longer shelf-life, 2) it is guaranteed to be pathogen free because the fermentation process kills human pathogens through acidity, and 3) the organic acids produced in the fermentation act as growth hormones for the plant, causing a more rapid response in plants than a compost tea.
The goal of the modern hemp farmer is to learn to Feed the Soil, Not The Plant" and use knowledge and products to improve on Mother Natures' wisdom. That is why Everflux has created an organic handmade product that is like a "Kombucha for your Hemp plants." Our all in one formula allows you to feed the microbes at an optimal level so that your hemp farm can produce a higher quality product year after year.
About the Author
Daniel Enking is the founder of Everflux Technologies. He is a life-long environmentalist and practical dreamer who is obsessed with resource efficiency and imaged an "everything recycling machine" at age 10.